Gharial number declining

- SHIVA PURI, BHARATPUR

Mar 6, 2017-

Gharial population is under threat due to habitat loss and declining fish number in rivers, conservationists say. 

Every year, the Chitwan National Park (CNP) releases gharials in various rivers, including Narayani and Rapti, to mark the World Wetland Day and Wildlife Week. The Crocodile Breeding Centre in Kasara has released 1,226 gharials in rivers so far. However, most of these fish-eating crocodiles have either died out or moved far downstream the river system towards India in search of fish, say conservationists.

Of the 1,056 gharials released last year, the centre’s chief Bed Bahadur Khadka said,  only 198 were tracked down. 

“Man-made structure like dams and canals have also led to the population decline of gharials in the country, because they can no longer swim upstream from India,” Khadka said.  

For a brief period, gharial population had made an improvement, from 81 in 2008 to 124 in 2013. Today they are few and far between.

According to the CNP officials, around 70 percent of the gharials are no longer found in the country’s river system. Gharials and other crocodile species are always on the move; they need at least 200 km of river area to roam and hunt for fish. In Nepal, conservationists say, they no longer enjoy the luxury of roaming freely and getting sufficient fish because of overfishing in rivers and mining activities along the banks.   

The gharial population, which was estimated between 5,000 and 10,000 worldwide during 1940s, declined by almost 96 percent to below 200 by 1976. This species-the only surviving member of the Gavialidae family-breeds only in the wild in Nepal and India and occupies only 2 percent (less than 200 mature breeding adults in number) of its historical range at present. The gharials have already gone extinct from Myanmar, Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Published: 06-03-2017 07:54

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